Athletes Turn to Tech to Prolong Careers On And Off The Field

    • Athletes finding equity investment in various tech sectors a natural move.
    • New generation of team owners offer players tech industry and investment insight.

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Technology continues to impact sports in a variety of ways, from prolonging careers on the field to impacting the way fans experience live events. Those advancements are also providing athletes new investment opportunities.

For current professional athletes, former NBA guard Michael Redd said it’s important to realize their position can make it easy to meet essentially anyone and open doors that might not otherwise be open to them. 

“Really the last five to seven years, athletes are thinking of themselves in a different light,” Redd said. “They’re recognizing their brand even more and that they can influence companies, not just from an endorsement standpoint, but with equity. That has changed the game.”

Redd recently became heavily involved as a venture partner in the ADvantage Sports Tech Fund, which is backed by IeAD Sports, the sports tech platform by Adidas founder Adi Dassler. Along with the ADvantage fund, Redd also has invested in more than 85 companies as an angel investor and partner at Third Wave Digital.

As technology companies have surged to become some of the most valuable businesses in the world and their executives into some of the world’s richest people, a few have taken control of teams.

And Redd sees an opportunity for the athletes. 

“The old guard has moved out and guys are really taking advantage of their owners who are VC guys or hedge fund guys,” Redd said. “It would behoove players to do some research, have lunch and coffee with the owners. To be able to sit down with a guy like Steve Ballmer and talk about the nuances of tech and investing, modern athletes have an incredible opportunity.”

Others see the ubiquity of technology lowering the barriers to adoption.

“I’m a little older, but the reason more athletes seem to be getting into it are they just grew up with technology and that makes them more tech-savvy,” former NBA guard and Turner Sports analyst Steve Smith said. “It’s a significant part of their lives, social media is all they know.”

But the former All-Star and NBA champion also is involved with technology companies, including Sportscastr, an app which allows fans to live stream themselves commentating on sports broadcasts. Sportscastr also has backing from NFL players Richard Sherman and Vernon Davis, who announced his retirement on Sunday.

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In addition to equity and opportunities off the field, technology is helping players stay on it longer.

Minor League pitcher Brandon Bailey might make the Baltimore Orioles roster this year, but he’s already been working toward a potential technology career. Bailey worked as an intern for the baseball performance company Driveline, which has received investment from a variety of MLB players, including pitcher Cincinnati Reds pitcher Trevor Bauer.

“Technology is a great avenue for athletes to pursue beyond the field because it can provide answers to problems and inefficiencies within your game that can’t be seen with the naked eye,” Bailey said. “Whether it’s receiving a biomechanics assessment in order to better understand how you move through space or throwing on a Rapsodo unit in order to receive pitch flight analysis, using technology can be very beneficial within the athletic development process.”

While he’s hopeful a long career is in front of him, Bailey said his post-pitching life will include technology in some form, even if he pursues his goal of becoming a coach or recruiting coordinator for a major Division I baseball program.

As technology continues its integration into everyday life, both on- and off-the field, internships like Bailey’s or investments like Smith are likely to only be more common.